Honda Civic Type R (FK8): living with it

Running an FK8 Civic Type R on evo's Fast Fleet was an absolute joy, even if we ran into a few bumps along the way...

Evo rating
  • Balance; powertrain; brakes; driver engagement – it does it all
  • Some will never be able to get past its looks

Let’s start with the good stuff. And there is oh-so-much very good stuff about the FK8 Civic Type R. Believe every positive word you’ve read about it: every group test win, every track battle victory. It really is that special. For me, it’s on a par with my all-time favourite hot hatches, namely the very best ones from Renault Sport

It’s fast, that’s for sure. With 316bhp it was never going to be anything but. Yet there’s so much more to it than that. There’s the confidence-inspiring composure, the remarkable sense of control, the lashings of feedback from every point where your body is in contact with the car. Never did I tire of the way you could snap the deliciously mechanical gearshift from third to fourth with just a flick of the fingertips, or the way the FK8 could rip into a corner then slingshot itself out the other side. Heck, from the driver’s seat even all that overwrought exterior styling seemed appropriate – the Honda has the moves to justify the ostentation. Put simply, I adore the way the Civic Type R drives. 

But now the reality check. It isn’t a perfect car to live with. Its low-speed ride could be considered firm by non-petrolhead passengers, the infotainment system is laggy and unintuitive, and the satnav seems largely oblivious to traffic problems that it is supposed to display. Also, as I found with the previous-generation CTR, the heat/dust shields behind the front brake discs have an irritating habit of catching loose stones, which then rattle around like a solitary boiled sweet in a metal tin, or cause embarrassing screeching noises during parking manoeuvres. But these were all niggles I could easily overlook in exchange for that sublime hot hatch driving experience.

Our long-termer also had a couple of bugs of its own. The front parking sensors would chime false warnings during and after rain, and the tyre pressure monitor needed to be reset two or three times after any tyre or tyre pressure change before it would stop reporting phantom punctures. But these were minor things, offset by a rock-solid build quality inside, with a total absence of rattles and creaks that would shame many a car costing several times the Type R’s £30,995 asking price (or £32,995 with our car’s GT trim, which adds goodies such as parking sensors, dual-zone climate control and an upgraded stereo). 

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In terms of running costs, an overall average of 29.9mpg seemed quite reasonable given the pace the Civic could offer and how frequently I enjoyed it. Our car was due its first service at around 10,100 miles – about 500 miles after it went back – and this would have cost £230 at my nearest dealer. However, the brake pads were close to needing replacement too, so that figure would have soon ramped up. The original front Continental Sport Contact 6s were done long before that, at 6500 miles, which included a couple of track outings.

We replaced the Contis with four Michelin Pilot Sport 4 Ss (£917.28), as we were intrigued by Michelin’s claim that the 4 S has a significantly slower wear rate than the Sport Contact 6. Sure enough, if the front pair continued to wear at the rate we saw over the first 3000 miles, we could have got over 11,000 road miles from them, which seems far more palatable. Their performance was impressive too, with at least equal levels of outright grip and traction as the Contis, but with the limits more clearly signalled by a much larger breakaway window. They seemed like a good match for the Type R. 

Shame, then, that two of them were destroyed after just 250 miles when a nasty ridge in the road caused the inner rims of both left-hand-side 20-inch wheels to pierce the tyres’ sidewalls. Not the Michelins’ fault, I’m sure, rather a sign that such large wheels with super-low-profile tyres (245/30s) don’t mix with British roads.

Further evidence of this had come months earlier, when a pothole bent the outer edge of one of the rims. This cost £174 to have straightened and refurbished by a specialist, but at least this was cheaper than the £541 Honda asks for a new wheel.

And it was these two events that caused my relationship with the Type R to turn sour. From then on, every journey was tainted. I found myself scanning the road for the smallest imperfection, to the point of distraction, and rarely daring to properly commit to a good road for fear of another bent rim or four-hour wait for a recovery truck. The car simply felt too fragile to be used as I wanted to use it.

Ultimately, this knocked the FK8, as it is, off my shortlist of cars to buy used one day. An FK8 on some tasteful aftermarket 18-inch wheels, however. Now that I might consider...

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